Friday, December 26, 2014

Understanding the Soul ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )

 I remember many years ago a spiritual teacher asking me this simple question, "Can you describe your soul?" This question haunted me for several years. So, what is the nature of our soul? How do we get to know it? Knowing soul is something that requires stillness in the mind. Our mind is continually in motion distracting us from a deep inner knowledge. Saint Theophan suggests that we divide the soul into different parts to know it –– intellectual, desiring and sensual.

Intellectual Aspect: You intellect stands about your memory and imagination; this intellect, among with intellectual labor, obtains for you definite concepts or cognitions about things.... This leads to thoughts, opinions and suppositions. Its business is to reason, think things over, and reach necessary conclusions.
But, normally our mind is filled with thoughts of all kinds. It is not still so we can make reasoned choices. We become driven by our passions.

Desirous Aspect: The faculty that operates here is the will... At its foundation lies zeal, or ardor––the thirst for something.... In a person who has lived for some time almost everything is done by habit.
Normally instead of using the will to do God's will we instead override it with our habits to meet the demands of our passions. So, not only do we have the confusion with the scattering of our thoughts but we also have a distorted inconsistent use of our desiring aspect seeking selfish desires.

Sensual Aspect: the Heart. Everything which enters the soul from the outside, and which is shaped by the intellectual and desirous aspects , falls to the heart; everything which the soul observes on the outside also passes through the heart, That is why its called the center of life... It constantly and persistently senses the condition of the soul and body, and along with this the various impressions from the individual actions of the soul and body... compelling and forcing man to furnish everything which is pleasant to its.
But it is most commonly tormented by the passions and it does not operate in peace. It then leads us to emotions and attachments that may not lead us to unity with God.

We can now begin to understand the nature of our spiritual life which is for our soul to regain its proper place so we can center our life on the will of God instead of the passions of our body. Of course it still needs to care for the body but as a secondary effort. The soul longs to be reunited with God, a unity broken by Adam and Eve, and a brokenness that Christ showed us how to heal, establishing His Church to help us in this effort.

Source: The Spiritual Life, pp 48 - 60